Movies

Marvel Phase 4’s New Chinese Super Hero Shang-Chi

Movie Review:

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Warning! Spoilers below!

Overview

Pros

  • Amazing CGI
  • Likeable characters
  • The fight scenes are fun to watch
  • The movie was amusing at times
  • Interesting music

Cons

  • Predictable plot
  • Not very convincing love story between Wenwu and Li
  • Slattery understanding the hundun with such precision was unrealistic
  • Wenwu sends assassins with orders to try to kill Shang-Chi and Xialing, when he really just wants to capture them

Observations

  • Aren’t they technically bracelets, not rings?

Review

The movie begins with the story of how Wenwu finding the magical Ten Rings and obtaining the powers of a god as well as immortality (which, I must say, does not help him much against soulsuckers. He should have read the fine print.)

Wenwu then founded an organization which he called the Ten Rings, probably because it sounds better than the Ten Bracelets. But I mean really–what would you call a large circular piece of jewelry that fits on your arm–a bracelet, right? But I have to admit, ring does sound cooler. You could even say it has more of a ring to it.

I know, that was bad.

Then we fast forward to 1996, when Wenwu tries to conquer Ta Lo and is stopped by Ying Li, who uses really dramatic and flowy martial arts–in other words, fancy dancing–to turn Wenwu’s own power against him. If their battle scene is 2x slower than most of the movie, then their falling in love was 10x faster. It’s more of a tell don’t show sort of scenario, where we don’t get much evidence of the love they share until the lady is dead.

Wenwu and Ying Li

The music at first I thought was okay, but later in the movie I felt like it fit the vibe more.

Then we go even more forward to modern times, where we meet parking valet “Shaun” and his best friend Katy, who are surprisingly not forced into a romantic relationship by the director despite this movie being both Disney and Marvel.

Katy and Shaun

We get a scene in a bar where Shaun and Katy explain how Katy prevented Shawn from getting beaten up by this big xenophobic dude by singing Hotel California. I love Katy. She is funny and relatable and does what she wants to do without worrying what others will think.

We get to see the main characters rock out in a karaoke night, which in my opinion was a smart move because it says a lot about their personalities. What is more personable than karaoke? It just made them even more likeable.

The bus scene though–that was amazing. Shaun was attacked by several assassins including one with a blade for an arm. I don’t know how he manages to retract and store that inside his arm when he is not using it. And what if it malfunctioned and slid out at the wrong moment? He could accidentally skewer someone.

Shaun using his martial arts ability while working with instead of against the environment of a moving bus was ingenious. The brakes getting cut and the bus breaking in half were a bit out there, but hey, this is Marvel we’re talking about. Katy needed a role and steering the bus without brakes made her pretty damn important.

The MVP of this scene was definitely a civilian (pictured above) who was recording the whole fight and grading it based on his limited experience with martial arts. His complete disregard for his own safety and complete confidence in Shaun did not seem realistic but was funny.

There is a moment when the bus flattens a ton of parked vehicles and all I can think of are dollar signs and a feeling of gratitude that they were empty parked cars because seeing people flattened by a bus would have been nauseating.

The man with the blade for an arm who attacked Shaun on the bus managed to steal the special necklace Shaun had been given by his deceased mother, and that, along with a postcard Shaun received in the mail, makes Shaun think his little sister is in trouble.

As a result, even though Shaun has been remarkably unconcerned with his sister’s whereabouts while he recovered from trauma of his own, he now seeks her out. Probably feeling guilty about promising to return to her years ago. But I don’t blame him much because he had to deal with his trauma, which is significant.

Katy demands to come along, because we need comic relief. I mean, because the martial arts master Shaun obviously needs civilian help. Ok ok, it’s because she is a great friend.

Shaun tells Katy his life story on the plane. She finds it hilarious that he tried to go into hiding by changing his name from Shang-Chi to Shaun–since they both sound very similar. He tells her that when his father sent him to kill the leader of the Iron Gang, the man who had been responsible for Shang-Chi’s mother’s death, he didn’t go through with it. That is a lie; in actuality, he killed the man and then ran away from home.

After that, the movie is pretty predictable. Shang-Chi fights his sister Xialing in a fight club, which most people would see coming from a mile away. She wins, which is also to be expected because Marvel always wants to establish a strong female figure, at least in their more modern films. That’s a good thing; it’s just predictable that she will win against Shang-Chi because of it.

Finally, after sending assassins to attack his children twice, Wenwu himself shows up. Now since his whole point was to capture his children, I have no idea why he sent assassins who tried to kill his children. I know, he said that he knew the assassins wouldn’t be able to kill them, but why do that rather than try to just capture them in the first place? Other than to create a series of entertaining fight scenes. Overall, he’s not winning any dad points.

When they arrive at their old home, Wenwu tells his children that he has been hearing the voice of his wife asking him to rescue her. Only problem is, she was murdered by the Iron Gang over ten years ago. Shang-Chi, Xialing and Katy don’t believe him, and are horrified when they find out that if Wenwu cannot find his wife in her hometown in Ta Lo, he plans on destroying the town and everyone in it.

Because what better way to honor someone’s memory than to deny their death and massacre everyone in their hometown?

Shang-Chi, Xialing, and Katy are locked up for disbelieving Wenwu, and while in prison they meet Trevor Slattery, the man who impersonated the Mandarin in an Iron Man movie. He admits how ridiculous the whole Mandarin story and impersonation was, which was apparently a way to apologize for the racial stereotypes associated with that character. Since he has no other good reason to show up in the movie, he seems out of place.

Slattery has a companion hundun, a weird creature with no head or mouth, just four wings and plenty of fur. He can understand it perfectly for reasons that are never explained.

Shang-Chi and the gang find it pretty easy to escape the prison, and to reach the forest protecting Ta Lo. When there, they take remarkably precise instructions from the hundun, translated by Slattery. I don’t think they should have made that such a huge plot point, because Slattery understanding the hundun is unexplained and makes no sense in the first place.

Shang-Chi and Xialing meet their Auntie Nan, who has the same abilities as her sister Ying Li and has the potential to stop Wenwu. However, for whatever reason she trains Shang-Chi to do it instead of fighting Wenwu herself.

We learn that the voice Wenwu is hearing is coming from the soulsuckers behind a walled-in portal. Wenwu does not believe that, and despite Shang-Chi’s efforts to stop him, Wenwu opens the portal. He is subsequently killed by a soulsucker, despite being “immortal”.

The CGI in Ta Lo is amazing in general, but the soulsucker and the dragon are probably the best. The dragon awakens from underwater, I guess to provide another beautiful instance of over-the-top CGI.

The major soulsucker tries to suck the soul out of the dragon, and is only stopped by Katy’s well-placed arrow. Despite having only several hours of training, she managed a perfect shot. Unrealistic but impressive. Shang-Chi takes the opportunity to kill the soulsucker, thus ending the battle between good and evil.

Having saved the world, Shang-Chi and Katy go back to the United States and tell their disbelieving friends. In a mid-credits scene, Wong invites them to meet Bruce Banner and Carol Danvers, and they find out that the rings are some sort of beacon. Rather than getting a good night’s rest, Wong, Katy, and Shang-Chi spend the night doing karaoke. That has to be one of the greatest parts of the movie.

In a post-credits scene, it is revealed that Xialing has taken over the Ten Rings organization rather than disbanding it like she had told her brother she would.

In conclusion, while this movie was unrealistic at times, it was enjoyable and fun to watch. It was funny at times, serious at the right moments, and altogether interesting. I would recommend it for anyone ages 13 and up.

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